Men in Nursing

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Introduction

It is a well known fact that nursing is a female dominated profession with societal pressures for gender restricted roles. For many centuries, nursing has been a role perceived through many outlets, especially media, as being a feminine profession.

Throughout history, feminists have lobbied for equal workplace rights within both political and educational arenas. These movements have been strongly backed by numerous powers which have seen many changes in the way women are viewed and the role they play in society today.

However, when it comes to men in nursing, this advocacy is not so well spoken for. Although male nursing is classed as an anomaly, it is interesting to note that as early as the fourth century, men were a vital component of the nursing profession, actively nursing the sick and dying. The ignorance towards this fact has lead to a very prominent issue within the health sector, encouraging males to avoid the nursing profession due to society’s view of what is socially acceptable and the ‘norm’.

Definition of Nursing
According to an updated definition of nursing provided by the International Council of Nurses (ICN) in 2002, ‘Nursing encompasses autonomous and collaborative care of individuals of all ages, families, groups and communities, sick or well and in all settings. Nursing includes the promotion of health, prevention of illness, and the care of ill, disabled and dying people. Advocacy, promotion of a safe environment, research, participation in shaping health policy and in patient and health systems management, and education are also key nursing roles. (Crisp & Taylor, 2005)

This definition is formally recognised internationally and yet there is no mention of gender. This develops an ever present question of why today, in a society so absorbed in the demand for equality, there is still such an intense gender bias towards males in the nursing situation. This in turn results in the discouragement of men worldwide to enter the nursing profession.

Origins of the profession of nursing
The origins of nursing in Australia were strongly influenced by the country’s beginnings as a penal colony. The main importance of that time was the development of the colony therefore jobs such as building and agriculture were given priority. So few resources were devoted and little credence was paid (Cushing, 1997) to those who cared for the sick and dying, hence nursing gained a reputation as being suitable for only those who were socially outcast. During the settlement time, majority of health care workers were of convict background as they were not classified suitable for any useful work such as labouring or building. As a result, the standard of nursing care was very poor and the nurses themselves were dishevelled, dirty and often intoxicated at work (Willis & Elmer, 2007). This time in Australia nursing history is referred to as the ‘Dark Age of Nursing’ (Schulz, 1991). When the Sydney hospital opened in 1811, majority of the nurses were convict women, with some convict men performing nursing duties. Nurses weren’t paid a fixed wage instead they were fed, clothed and housed for their labour. The first fully trained nurses who were the five Irish sisters of Charity arrived in Sydney in 1838. In 1868, the future of nursing was changed dramatically when the nightingale nurses landed in Australia and gradually set in place Florence Nightingales principles founded on the philosophy of nursing being the ‘charge of somebody’s health’ based on the knowledge of ‘how to put the body in such a state to be free of disease or to recover from disease’. In the same year, Nightingale developed the first organised program to train nurses. With the aid of Lucy Osburn, Nightingale changed the reputation of nurses by dismissing the worst workers and reforming the remaining by teaching them hairdressing and issuing uniforms as a first step towards improving their image and decorum. The...
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